Purpose is not about changing who you are. It’s about amplifying it.
When I take an organization through the purpose clarification process, it’s not unusual to encounter some pushback.
When I dig into the cause, what I find is a fear. A fear that I’m going to invent something that they won’t be comfortable with. There is a worry that I will try to force them to become something that they and the organization are not.
This may be the biggest misconception about embracing a Big Audacious Meaning.
You don’t invent a purpose. You clarify it.
A Big Audacious Meaning is not something you conjure out of thin air. It is something that is present in an organization. It is in the DNA. It often goes back to the very beginning. In these cases, it may be why the founders took a risk to establish the company. It’s sometimes called the origin story.
At other times, the roots of purpose could have been formed when an organization went through a major inflection point in its history. At that time, the leadership may have established a guiding principle or its ‘why’. Unfortunately, in the majority of cases, the ‘why’ never got voiced. There may be a vision, mission, and values. But none of these fully capture the essence of the ‘why’. Yet, it is the ‘why’ that is the most powerful of these guiding principles. Because it captures the profound positive impact you will have on a life, a community, or even the world.
During one purpose clarification process, I had a stakeholder of the organization tell me, “We don’t need to re-do our mission statement again.”
That was code for, “Don’t try to make us something we are not.”
When we clarify the purpose, we are not forcing the organization to transform into some other entity. We are refining the most powerful belief that an organization holds. We are amplifying that core truth that sits above the vision, mission, and values. That can be game-changing. Because now we can show people both inside and outside the organization how they can join in to make a difference in the world around us. That’s why it’s called a Big Audacious Meaning. If there is any change, it is the change in how the amplification of our purpose causes all our stakeholders to feel about us.
That’s a change that can be transformational.
Dan is an expert brand strategist and author of the forthcoming book Big Audacious Meaning — Unleashing Your Purpose-Driven Story. He is a founder at Will & Grail — a brand innovation company, helping organizations find their unique, undeniable and unshakable sense of purpose and create innovative experiences that bring it to life.